by Andrew Rubin
Ringing in the New Year in the workplace comes with its own set of benefits and challenges. For many, January is a chance for a fresh start and an opportunity to hit the ground running. This proactive attitude is vital for IT personnel, especially because they’ll be faced with new demands from employees and technology alike.
Much of the networking buzz in 2010 around mobile devices, social media and cloud computing will turn into to-do items on IT’s checklist as these emerging trends come to fruition in 2011. For IT personnel, it will be vital to keep these trends in mind by taking a proactive stance now in order to be prepared. For employees, review the trends discussed below with an eye toward your involvement and impact, and hopefully it’ll give you a better sense of what’s on IT’s plate this year!
Tablets, eReaders and the latest iPhone/Pad/Pod topped many wish lists in 2010 and these devices are certain to top the list of IT headaches in 2011. Since consumers have proven that they take their latest gadgets on the go, it’s a safe bet that they won’t be leaving them on the kitchen counter before heading into the office. This means that IT personnel need to prepare for the influx of new devices being brought into the enterprise environment, as well as the complexities inherent in their use, ranging from bandwidth and security concerns to productivity issues.
Rather than viewing these new devices as a big burden, IT has to embrace these technologies and find the best way to manage them in the context of more traditional IT activity. While employees may be happy that their iPad allows them to watch the latest training video, the CEO will not be as pleased if the strain on the network stops him or her from video conferencing with a customer or partner. In order to strike this balance, IT will have lots of questions to work through and it’s imperative that they work on answering them sooner rather than later: How much control can IT have? Who’s responsible for device performance? What is authorized (personal and professional) to be on the workplace network?
Supporting global business
More companies are doing business globally than ever before. International business is nothing new, but it’s become increasingly common in today’s post-recession economy, fueled even more so by the quick rebound of overseas economies.
This means two things for IT; there needs to be network infrastructure to connect with businesses overseas, such as clients and partners, and there also needs to be enough bandwidth to support remote, branch and small offices that exist outside the U.S. Furthermore, IT needs the security and visibility to manage all of this effectively. An additional business risk comes with expanding overseas, because many of the security incidents originate outside of the U.S. There’s undeniably some risk of global attack and the ability to identify and track traffic on a global basis will be increasingly important.
Cloud computing and virtualization
Cloud computing and virtualization are nothing new, and these trends have proven to have staying power because they are only growing in popularity. But as the cloud becomes a bigger piece of an organization’s tool set, it’s critical for IT to evaluate what should be done to manage it. One key consideration is the state of your network’s infrastructure – its bandwidth, throughput and speed capabilities – because the network is the fabric upon which these activities occur. IT also has to think about where employees access the network since more and more activity is taking place in distributed offices, or even at the corner coffee shop and hotel lobby.
Security is another critical piece of the puzzle. A common set of best practices for security in the cloud are only starting to emerge, but implementing them will be easier than you think. That’s because IT should treat the cloud and any virtualization technologies as they would their existing physical infrastructure – they are, after all, an extension of one another. This means implementing a consistent set of security services across both platforms, meeting all compliance regulations regardless of where the activity occurs, and having visibility into and control over the activity taking place, which will help to stop any security issues before they start.
From crack-down to control
2011 will require IT to move from cracking down on end-user activity to controlling it. In the days where social media and streaming content were strictly personal activities, IT’s job was primarily to put a stop to it since it cut down productivity levels and often used up critical bandwidth. Now, social media and related applications are part of a company’s sales and marketing strategies, and even facilitate interactions between employees located in offices across the globe.
As these activities are becoming more engrained in business operations, IT’s role will move from watch dog to enabler. They will need to know what the specific activities are so they can effectively manage and allocate bandwidth around them. IT should also have technology in place to ensure maximum visibility into network activity, including which devices are on the network, what applications or data those devices can access, and if devices are hogging bandwidth that needs to be reserved for mission-critical applications. These considerations are especially important in locations where there is less IT oversight and thinner connectivity, like in remote and branch offices.
If IT personnel resolve to take action against these trends now, they’re more likely to have a manageable and successful year ahead. It will also put them in the position to better respond to new trends that come around as we make a course for 2012.
Andrew Rubin is the president and CEO of Cymtec (St. Louis, MO). www.cymtec.com